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Middle-school librarians Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan prove that two heads are better than one when it comes to discussing YA and children's books

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Wednesday, December 5, 2012 12:02 pm
Lost and Found by Bill Harley
Posted by: Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan

Lynn:  Lost items are a familiar issue for kids.  I know we are always searching for a missing something around here!  With four households in the mix, someone always seems to have left something somewhere else.  Bill Harley takes a wonderful look at missing items, school janitors and the mysteries of lost and found in a terrific picture book appropriately titled Lost and Found (Peachtree 2012).  Justin has lost his favorite hat, the one his grandmother knitted him and his grandmother is coming to visit next week!  He’s going to have to look in the lost and found box but that means going down the “scary hall” and talking to the equally scary custodian, Mr. Rumkowsky.  Justin makes a valiant effort at searching everywhere first but finally he has to face his fate.  Mr. Rumkowski has been at the school forever, even when Justin’s mom went to school there and his lost and found box is vast!  Justin bravely digs in and begins to unearth all sorts of hilarious treasures:  hockey sticks, pirate hats, cans of mystery meat and a stuffed wolverine with wings – everything but Justin’s hat!  There’s a clever twist that leads to a happy ending and the mystery of Justin’s hat is explained with a wonderful wordless epilogue.

Harley’s text and especially the dialog is spot on.  In fact I wonder if he’s been spying on our household!  Adam Gustavson’s oil paint illustrations are a total delight and extend the story wonderfully.  This would be ideal for a classroom or story-hour read aloud and it will have the entire class nodding their heads in smiling recognition.  Now – WHERE did I leave my hat?

Cindy: This story is great, for all the reasons Lynn listed, but I’m going to focus on the illustrations. Each double page spread has great perspective and some elements of humor. In one early scene the angle is from close to the ground, the text is printed on a side of a desk and readers who take the time to look at the scene carefully will find a classroom hamster hatching an escape plan. In another, the custodian’s office/closet has at least 7 locks and deadbolts and a shelf full of cans of “Barfo” cleaner. The lost and found box is, indeed, HUGE. And in stencil print it says “CAUTION CIRCUS ANIMALS – THIS END UP” and of course the arrow is pointing…DOWN. Images extend beyond the frame and the whole presentation is delightful.

When my daughter graduated from high school, she invited her elementary school custodian to her graduation party, saying, “Without Mr. Tanis, my shoes would all still be on the roof of the school.” Many districts, including our own, are moving to contracted cleaning services and the helpful school custodian is becoming as rare as the credentialed school librarian. I appreciate this tribute to the helpful but sometimes misunderstood school custodian. And, it’s a reminder to everyone to get to know people instead of just making assumptions about their character.


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